Negro Noir: I Finally Watched Acrimony and Yes, I'm Also Wondering How the Hell Taraji Got on That Boat

(L-R): Lyriq Bent and Taraji P. Henson in Acrimony
Screenshot: Lionsgate (YouTube)

Movies that are “so bad, they’re good” are one of life’s unsung treasures. And like anything, adding blackness to that principle is like adding proper seasoning—our series reviewing/recapping bad black movies, Negro Noir. As our queen-in-chief Danielle Belton pointed out, it’s so black, the title of the series is essentially “black black” in two different languages. I watch these so you don’t have to. But you should.

It’s been a while since a film has made me yelp. No, not leave a review on a popular recommendation site, I mean “a short sharp cry, especially of pain or alarm.”

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But, since we’re on the topic of definitions, that leads me to Tyler Perry’s Acrimony. Yes, that segue will make sense soon. Or maybe it won’t. Neither does this film. We’re in great company!

Before we get into what exactly inspired my sharp exclamation of alarm, let’s start at the beginning. In fact, let’s start with the basics.

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IMDb’s synopsis of Acrimony:

A faithful wife, tired of standing by her devious husband, is enraged when it becomes clear she has been betrayed.

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Written and directed by Perry, Acrimony stars Taraji P. Henson, Lyriq Bent, Ajiona Alexus (who also portrayed little Young Cookie in Empire! It’s like an Easter Egg!), Antonio Madison, Crystle Stewart, Danielle Nicolet, Ptosha Storey, Jazmyn Simon, Bresha Webb, Raquel Bianca John and others.

Admittedly, this review is dropping in a cosmic timing bubble, given Perry’s latest studio opening news, but I’ve actually been meaning to review this film for a while. Full disclosure: I tried watching this in an ideal situation (socially, with my hoodrat friends), but we cut it off after the first third of the film after not being able to stop pausing the movie intermittently to add commentary on its ridiculousness. Due to Perry’s trending name, I decided last night was the time to revisit (and complete) this ride. And boy, was it ever a ride.

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After being thrust into a teasing/foreshadowing scene of Adult Melinda—nicknamed “Mel”— (Henson) in court, we’re given an intimate look into Mel’s therapy session that isn’t so much a therapy session (it’s randomly implied Mel has borderline personality disorder, after all), but Henson’s opportunity to immerse herself into some good auntie-drama monologues.

Probably the most aggravating bit about this film is its exhausting use of voiceover. It is not used for its intended purpose—as a supplemental element to what’s happening on screen—but as a goddamn crutch to explain every single thing that’s happening. I’d argue there is more voiceover than on screen dialogue. Exposition soup! Shut up sometimes, offscreen Mel!

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Probably the most appreciated bit about this film is its heavy use of corny witticisms. I found myself snorting at gems such as “I didn’t see the con man for the con. Man!” and “Using my tricks on that trick!”

One interesting plot technique involves a sneak peek into what was likely Perry’s outlining process. Homie had to have had a thesaurus at the ready because each “chapter” of the film is accompanied with a word and its definition: Acrimony, Sunder, Bewail, Deranged and Inexorable. So, I highly recommend an upperclassman high school student watch this movie to prepare for the SATs.

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Also, I reckon all of the music department budget was spent on licensing Nina Simone’s iconic music throughout the film because the rest of the soundtrack appears to be a random woman painfully caterwauling in the background.

After a stormy (literally) meet-cute, our two lovers, Young Melinda (Alexus) and Young Robert (Madison) are thrust into a volatile codependent relationship that is somehow initially explained away with one voiceover line: “He had my heart, my head and let’s not forget...my virginity.” This happened on the afternoon of Mel’s late mother’s wake, by the way. Jesus Tyrone Christ.

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Anyway, the two fall deeply in love and experience a romantic courtship despite that pesky time Robert cheated on her with a girl named Diana (more on her, later), causing Mel to spazz out and drive a car through his trailer. Speaking of that humble trailer, though Robert is on hard times now, don’t fret, he’s promised his boo-thang a high-rise apartment in the skyyyyy and a forever night cruise on a yacht. How will Robert get this dream money? Well, with his self-chargeable battery invention, of course! Robert proposes and Mel says yes like a big dummy (in love). Throughout the film, we’re “treated” to montages of Robert tirelessly working on the battery while Mel takes two jobs to keep them afloat after Robert spends all of Mama Mel’s insurance money and beyond.

After abruptly finding out Robert is a felon, Mel takes out a mortgage on the house her mom already paid for and the couple go months without paying, threatening foreclosure. Mel’s two sisters (first portrayed by Webb and Bianca, then by Storey and Simon as adults), who initially tried to warn her about Robert, reluctantly enlist their plot-device husbands to bring Robert into their commercial delivery service. That doesn’t work out because he gets a damn call about that battery he’s been trying to pitch for years at a hoity-toity company called Prescott. However, they offer him a measly $800,000 despite their future ability to make millions. Robert peeps game and turns it down.

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Shenanigans ensue when Mel believes the delivery fiasco means Robert is cheating on her again (but, he’s not!). She also doesn’t believe his pitch story since he turned down the money and she tells him to get his shit and leave. His shit consists of his battery and that Nina Simone album they had relations to. But, plot twist: Robert gets another chance to pitch and because the battery is his intellectual property, he is offered multi-millions. Robert is now rich, bitch!

Robert, knowing it’s really over between them, visits Mel at her desk job and offers her $10 million to make up for the losses (financial and emotional) she’s endured. Mel experiences regret, which takes the form of her spilling all the tea on her sisters, their useless husbands and the “big man with the little dick” ex she tried to reconnect with during her rebound phase. She then tries to reunite with her newly wealthy boo, but—oops, pow, surprise!he’s now engaged to Diana (Stewart)! Diana, who consoled him during his time of heartbreak and poverty.

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The next montage involves Mel going absolutely berserk as she Facebook-stalks the couple, who are doing every single thing Robert promised to her. The nerve of that nigga! She goes on a rampage that leads right back to that opening court scene, where she is handed a restraining order and jail threat.


And now, I present to you the moment everyone has been talking about, the moment that presents itself along with a bunch of other climactic shit in the last 13 fucking minutes:

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Robert and Diana get married and—this is important—immediately take off on their new boat for their honeymoon. During this time period, Mel is clearly in her home, trapped because her sisters and brothers-in-law have staged an intervention because they knew she would try to crash the wedding. Let me repeat: Mel. Was. In. Her. Home. When. The. Boat. Left. The. Dock.

So…

Tell me why Mel somehow levitated onto the boat wearing Diana’s wedding dress?!

After the final and most clunky exposition drop where Robert asks Mel to tell him “so [he’s] sure” why she snapped like a twig, she pulls it out of him⁠—an admission of wrongdoing. Mel demands he declare his love by pushing Diana off the boat so they can be together, but he refuses. She then shoots him and makes the staff all jump off the boat. Robert manages to push Mel off the boat after she chases Diana, demanding what’s “rightfully hers”: that ring. Robert is still bleeding out from the gunshot wound and has Diana stop the boat so she can retrieve the boat staff. But wait, Mel is back on the boat BECAUSE SHE IS A MUTANT.

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What follows is a haunting love song over a slow-motion chase scene. Mel with an ax and Robert dragging his almost lifeless body across the boat to escape her. She attacks him with an ax (It looks like she chopped something off? You know what, I’m done asking questions I’ll never get a logical answer to), but the anchor chain catches her leg and pulls her to the deadly depths of the ocean.

The film concludes with a bird’s eye view of the boat crew rushing to assist the near-dying Robert. Really. That’s how it ends. Perhaps we should be grateful.

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Hot Take: The boat should have an Academy Award right now for Best Visual Effects. Fin.

Acrimony is currently available to stream on Hulu. If you’d like to hop aboard this trainwreck with me, hop in the comments! It’s a support group.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.